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19 May 2008 @ 11:47 am
Doctor Who: Hearts Behind (1/?); Five/Rose; PG-13  
Author: lieutenants
Characters: Rose Tyler, the Tenth/Fifth Doctors, Peri Brown
Pairings: Implied Doctor/Rose, implied Five/Peri.
Genre: General, action/adventure, etc.
Summary: An inebriated mishap on Cup night leads to Rose waking up in the TARDIS -- only trouble is, it’s the wrong one. And with her Doctor suddenly absent from the whole of creation, she and a somewhat familiar, fair-haired stranger are left to mend the ruptured patch in time; all whilst combating a mysterious entity threatening to swallow planet Earth.



Notes: I began this long before "Time Crash" was even announced, so I guess that makes this a bit AU. Also draws on information from the Big Finish Audios (which I regard as canon), so names like Erimem or specifics on the Fifth Doctor’s airs and graces may be unfamiliar to you if you haven’t heard them, but nothing’s vital to the story. :) Enjoy!



Cover art (click for full view) by the inimitable, brilliant boxed. This story is for her.



----

Valencia is alive, and the chipping streets are etched with the palm prints of ghosts.

Rose tips a tumbler of cheap sangria into the deepest confines of her throat, and the taste is bitter but exquisite, like the liquid scent of a cherry. She smiles at her companion, resting an elbow against the bar, cheek in hand. The Doctor is about to smile back when a stray holler startles him on the opposite side of the pub and he makes a gentle tutting sound of disapproval.

“All this noise,” he says.

“Stop your moaning, it was your idea to come here.”

“I didn’t expect it to be so mental. Spain only hosted the games, they didn’t win.”

“Who did, again?” asks Rose, rubbing something from her eye.

“Italy. 1982 World Cup champions, this game puts them on par with Brazil as having won the most cups in history. Holds true to your day, they’ve--”

“Don’t care,” yawns Rose, making a dismissive gesture with her hand. She waits a moment to witness the utter hurt spreading on his face, noticable as the smell of wet dog in a living room, before she grins and pinches his cheek. “Naw, this is lovely. Really. I’m happy.”

“It smells like dead mongoose in here. And I would know. Don't ask me how, but I would know.”

She pokes him. “You’re in a mood tonight.”

The Doctor clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth apologetically. “Nah, head’s hurting a bit, that’s all. Sorry. Don’t listen to me.” He inhales through his noise deeply, a sound he only makes when he’s on the brink of falling over, generally followed by his hands tearing at his hair, and says, “I'm happy you're happy.”

Rose narrows her eyes suspiciously, the smile not leaving her face. She takes a sip from the straw she’s thus far been neglecting in her drink, taking it gently in her fingers and using her other hand to take his. “And you’re happy?” she asks.

“You’re being weird,” he says.

“Piss off, I’m not!”

“See?”

“I want to know that you’re happy, right now, here. It’s important. If you’re not, tell me, we can leave. We can go to some place where people’s heads are made of clock gears and they’ve got tentacles that squeeze out ginger beer and nobody ever has sex or talks about their feelings, ever. Your paradise. Just say the word.”

He pauses. “I talk about my feelings.”

“When you’re hungry. Or think that Leonardo DiCaprio is overrated and have to remind yourself constantly that he gets eaten by piranhas in 2013.”

“My head,” he murmurs.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing. Your drink’s running out.”

Rose stares at him. “Are you trying to get me to talk nonsense all night?”

“You’ve already started, might as well keep at it.”

“You’re trouble, you are.” He smiles.

Rose is about to speak again when the Doctor winces, slightly at first but a low growl soon emits from his throat and he presses his fingers against his eye sockets. When he pulls his hands away, his eyebrows are ruffled.

“All right?” asks Rose.

“Yeah, just--aah--”

The Doctor lurches forward, digs his thumb and forefinger against either side of his scalp. Rose instinctively puts her hands to his shoulders, begins to rub them gently. He grunts again.

“Headache or something, migraine, don’t worry about me...”

“Do you want me to--?”

“No, nothing, it’s okay, I’d better...” He gathers his jacket from the bar’s surface and begins to stand, eyes still shut tightly. “I’d better have a lie down.” Rose begins to shift to her full height but he raises a hand in protest. “No, I’m all right, stay here. Have a drink. I’ll park round the corner.”

“Doctor--”

“Stay here. Been a while since you’ve had a gay old time, anyways. Male strip clubs on Adonia aside.”

“Oi.”

He opens his eyes, which suddenly look very ancient indeed, heavy and wet and now lined slightly with red. They turn upwards as he smiles. “I’m fine.”

“Liar.”

“I’ll be okay,” he whines, and begins to trudge towards the front door. He shoves his coat over each arm, then whirls around and it drags in a swift brown wing of movement round his ankles. He points a finger at her, eyebrows raised, mouth thin and twisted with bottom teeth bared. “And mind the Jesus juice,” he stays sternly. “I mean it, Rose. Nearly getting my tongue removed because you pinched Caligula’s arse was not the most ripping way to spend a Sunday evening.”

“Not my fault if he’s paranoid! Bloke put his horse in government, for Christ’s sake--”

“Just...” The pointed finger expands to include the whole palm, resolute. “Be good.”

Rose smiles, and he mirrors the gesture: it’s enough for him. The Doctor turns and pushes through the front door.

“Brave heart, Rose,” he calls.

“What’s that?”

And he’s gone.


---


She’d meant to listen. But come on. This was cup night, and this was Spain.

It’s four-thirty in the morning. Rose has just finished off three and a half pitchers of sangria, snogged a tax attorney with a silent ‘j’ in his name because of his haircut (very Burt Reynolds, delicious) and feels the beginnings of total internal annihilation spreading in her guts. She bids an extraordinarily loud goodnight to the patrons of the bar, now mostly dangerous-looking people but she couldn’t much tell the difference between a rapist and a flagpole at the moment.

“Round,” she begins to breathe once outside, “corner...”

She digs at the TARDIS key hanging between her breasts, pulls it out and holds it in front of her as she wobbles forward. Distant shrieks and wails of sirens and Italy supporters echo through the city, and her eyes catch sight of it: the TARDIS, resting on a curb beside a pasteleria.

“Across the street, not the round the corner! Loveleeez,” she says.

She presses the key into the hole once arriving at the door, jiggles it a bit. Thinks of the word ‘jiggles’ and laughs. The door finally breaks open and she staggers inside, hearing the familiar faint humming. It’s all a bit bright, she thinks. Her vision’s contaminated with massive, twirling smudges. “Doctor,” she trills, “are you all betters?”

There’s no answer. She shrugs and drops her bag.

“I gonna bed now,” she says. “Mind if I pee when I wake up?”

No answer again.

There’s a padded chair in the corner--are there corners in the TARDIS? She can’t remember--and she slumps against it, coughs up a sigh and shuts her eyes. She thinks she hears the sound of a door closing before her head dips forward, the last thought in her head is still something about corners.


---


She dreams of ancient Rome. He can’t help but watch her face for a moment before taking her up in his arms.


---


There’s a beige light in Rose’s eyes. She clamps soft fingers over her face and breathes into them, rubs, feeling the thickness of make-up beginning to smudge from place and spread all rubbery to her cheeks. Her breath is like a dead raccoon spread into ninety wet bits across an asphalt road. She grunts and sits up, very slowly, pressing against the hard flesh of her neck. Beneath that yellow hair of hers is a brain swirling with piss and smoke-stains.

She remembers Burt Reynolds (or something), the word jiggles and the TARDIS.

TARDIS.

This is not the TARDIS.

She exhales sharply, glances around feverishly for a moment. Her eyes stop dead at an armchair in the corner of the room: a robe is draped over it, a pair of bunny slippers resting on the seat. They gaze at her with cracked, buck-toothed grins, dirty fuzz balls gathering at their upturned noses. Not the best thing to greet a newborn hangover. Perhaps she...

Rose lifts the sheet, scanning it for a moment (Burt? she thinks hopefully). She’s in PJs, rather chaste PJs like the kind you wear on Christmas Eve when you’re nine years old; dry sheets. She’d spent the night alone.

She swings her legs over the bed, then cautiously puts a bunny slipper at each foot--if only so she doesn’t have to look at their freak faces anymore--then pulls the robe over her shoulders. It is a bit cold. So white here.

She opens her door.

There’s a corridor, its surface covered in pale fluorescent discs. A low humming sound, like a perpetual pigeon purr rings through the air and along the walls. She can feel it beneath her feet. There’s an energy here, a life-beat, something...

She shakes the thought, glances round the first corner. “Hello?” she calls. Even the silence is soft. It all seems snow-covered, there’s a crisp peacefulness but an undertone of churning machinery, which makes Rose wary. It can’t be a house. Not on Earth anyway. Maybe they’d traveled, and he’d put her in some sort of hotel while she lay in a state of blessed intoxication, drool pooling out of her mouth. Wouldn’t be the first time. But it didn’t explain this feeling that spread like a puddle beneath her feet, growing bigger and bigger with each step she took, a tingling indication that something might possibly be--

She’s turned another corner, gone through a door and it’s there. Red-blooded, pumping, beating up and down in the center of a great white room, its walls thick with circles. Levers, switches dotted chaotically in a cold spectrum of red and gray on the boards around it. She’s barely gotten a chance to take in a breath when the door behind her clicks.

“Good morning.”

Rose makes a noise which, later, she will be rather embarrassed of. She turns, feels her hair shudder after her as she’s greeted by a face, she notices the eyes first. Pale blue caverns. He’s young, terribly young, with a handsome face and a boy’s mouth. A beige coat’s fitted snug round his shoulders, hair on his head like fluffed sand, and his jacket’s lined with a gently burning red. Trainers of absolute white are on his feet, met at the ankles by striped trousers beneath a knitted vest, topped by a collar stamped with two question marks. And there’s a piece of vegetation--what is it, a leek? Celery?--stuck to his lapel. Rose spots that last, and gawks at it for a moment before trailing back to his robin’s-egg eyes. And it’s there, that ancient heaviness, that cold warmth (or warm chill, she could never quite put her finger on it), it’s there in those young eyes, and Rose can’t get a reaction in before he speaks.

“Or ‘good afternoon,’ I should say, it’s nearly three o’clock, relatively speaking...”

“I...”

“Have a good rest, did you?” He rushes past her and begins fiddling with a switch or two on the console, presses a button. A great bubbly sound hums through their ears and Rose covers her eyes with one hand. She steadies her breathing.

“Hope you don’t mind,” he continues, “would drop you off, but I’ve got a bit of an errand to run, you see, I’m in a slight panic but it’s nothing to worry about, doesn’t concern you, I’m sure--or does it? Doesn’t explain how you got into my TARDIS, but we can discuss that later. We’ll drop you off in your proper time-stream quicker than Fanny’s your aunt, Bob’s your uncle and soon enough everything will be coming up ros--aah!”

A great spark hisses and erupts from the console -- a bright champagne firework -- and he flicks his singed hand several times before sucking briefly on his knuckle. He glances at his guest.

Rose has been staring at him as if his arm were up the wrong end of a cow. He drops his hand and smiles weakly at her. “Nothing to worry about,” he repeats, and he turns, bound for the door.

“Can’t be,” she blurts. Her voice is thin (almost with tears), and he stops to face her again.

“Sorry?”

“You’re--you can’t be, it...”

“Ah, yes, this would be a bit daunting at first, this space travel business, sorry there’s been little time to adjust but I assure you the cosmos is a very big and wonderful place, millions of species inhabiting the vibrant, pulsating force that imbibes the...vast echoes of...whatever. I’ll explain later - must dash.”

“Who are you?” she asks. She sounds angry and doesn’t know whether this is intentional or not.

“Oh, where are my manners? Apologies,” the young man says, and extends his hand. “I’m the Doctor.”

She shakes her head quickly, breathes out a laugh. “No...”

“Oh?”

“You’re not the Doctor.”

“I see,” he says steadily. “Well, I’m sure to get a nip and tuck every once in a while. Have we met before? All teeth and curls, was I? Mop-topped?”

She says nothing. Her expression’s gone cold.

He smiles and tucks his arms behind his back. “You needn’t be offended. When you’re as old as I am, faces are easy to forget.” He studies her for a moment, his eyes narrow gently. “I would recognize you, though. Something seems familiar, your eyes...”

“You’ve regenerated?” she breathes. “Has it gone wrong again?”

“Again?”

“It’s Rose,” she says sternly. “’Member? What the hell happened, was it the headache? Was there a time vortex...problem...? What have you done to the TARDIS, what the hell’s that punctuation on your shirt!?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says at last, and his brow’s furrowed in an apologetic knot. He also takes the time to glance at his collar. “They’re not all bad, are they?”

“Doctor, you left me at the pub. You had a headache. What happened after that?”

He speaks tentatively: “I’m sorry, I know this must be terribly confusing for you, I’m sorry; I simply haven’t got time right now--”

“So make time!” she snaps. “This is a bloody time machine, what the hell’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” he states calmly, “but there’s no need to be quite so aggressive. Seven-hundred years at the helm of this old girl, I know what I’m doing, you’ve got to listen to me and we can sort all of this out later, there is no time. Something is terribly wrong and I’ve got to--”

“Seven-hundred years,” she cuts.

“Yes.”

“You told me you’d been at it for nine.”

He clicks his tongue. “Now, that is odd.” His hands go to his hips. “Call me a narcissist but I keep rather good track of the years. I’m never keen to exaggerate.”

“You’re saying you’re a...past...him?”

“Could be,” he says. “It’s a rare occurrence that my time streams cross, but it wouldn’t be the first time.”

“I thought it was impossible.”

“No more impossible than it would be for you,” says the Doctor. “You just wouldn’t go back to find yourself swathed in ruffles with a great grey bouffant.” He pauses. “Well. It’s not likely, anyway.”

“No, see, you told me it was impossible,” insists Rose. “I asked you about it once, and you told me since your home planet was gone--”

“What--?”

“--that it was impossible for two of you to exist at the same time, and that it only happened when the place you came from was in danger, but since that war--”

He opens his mouth, a soft sound starting to escape it, when a terrible siren cuts through the air, and he grits his teeth (crooked, Rose spots) and flings himself at the console. “Oh, for pity’s sake, what now?”

“Mauve alert, yeah?”

“How would you--” He directs his attention to Rose for a brief second, then glances back at the monitor. “No. No, I don’t know what’s wrong with her; this day’s been a bit funny, really, and you turning up, well...that’s the icing on the--”

There’s a terrific jolt, and Rose clings to the opposite side of the console, her fingers sore from the grip and with a violent slam, all movement stops. The center beam of the console halts its motions and the Doctor takes seconds before standing upright.

“We’ve landed,” he says. The quiet is eerie.

“Where?”

“That’s the thing,” he mutters. “I’m not entirely sure.” He runs a hand through his pale hair, and his eyes drift to hers. “Rose, was it?”

“Rose,” she repeats gently.

“Rose. Stay here.”

He circles the console, reaches across her torso and pulls a lever with a large red orb stuck to the end of it. Another bubbly sound whirls up and the doors open, and the Doctor passes through them, his coat tails fluttering.

There’s a moment of silence, then a scream and a heavy, two-part splash of a noise. Rose snaps to attention and is about to scramble out the doors when the Doctor calmly re-enters, soaking wet, peeling a string of seaweed from his hair.

“Pacific Ocean, apparently,” he says flatly. “Interesting.”

His trainers squeak with wet as he treads to Rose’s side, fiddles gently with one of the knobs before smacking it violently. The console makes an irked sound, and the Doctor hisses, “For crying out loud...”

“You could’ve checked the...oh.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, I was gonna say the scanner, but I guess they’ve not been invented yet or something.”

He frowns, practically hurt. “I’ve got a scanner! It’s in the wall just there, the screen’s jammed is all. Of course I would’ve checked the blasted scanner, I don’t know the sort of man you travel with but as of late I’m not entirely hopeless.”

“Didn’t need a bath either, did ya, but there we are,” grumbles Rose.

The Doctor tilts his head back and stares down at her disapprovingly, and his fringe gently shifts in place, like river-gold on a skillet. The engines purr to a start. This distracts him and he brightens up: “Ah. Moving again.”

“That a good thing?”

“We’ll see,” he says.

“Here, are you gonna tell me what’s happening? Don’t know how bothered you are, but the Doctor’s out there and I need to find him, he could be--”

“Maybe so, but I’ve got a few more pressing matters to attend to right now. Whoever I am and at any time, young lady, you can be quite certain that one thing remains constant: I can take care of myself.”

“Don’t call me that,” she says angrily.

“Apologies.” He smiles.

Rose clenches her jaw and picks a ball of lint off her robe before continuing. “So. You say you’re him, then, eh?”

“Who?”

“The Doctor,” she mutters.

“Last time I checked.”

“Prove it.”

“Well, I am piloting the TARDIS, is that not enough?”

“You’re crap at it.”

“I am not!” The frown again. He looks six years old. “You try operating a half-functioning time-manipulating dimension-bending phone box set on a randomizer and see how far you get.”

Rose turns her entire head to look him in the eyes. Something cold’s in her face, tragic, and, for some odd reason he can’t quite place, he wants to do everything in his power to keep from upsetting her. He can’t imagine why. He shifts his tone of voice, attempts to make it kind.

“Well, I’ve got no other way to prove it to you, I’m afraid. We’ve never met before so I can’t reminisce about old times or any sort of thing like that.” On the other hand: “Good thing too, I suppose, you’re far too disagreeable for my tastes. Standards must be a thing of my past.”

“Say that again,” she hisses.

“Ah. The engines...they’ve stopped. Hear that?” He raises his eyebrows. “Might as well go take a look, hopefully someplace a bit less damp.”

“Want your water wings?” asks Rose as he turns to leave. An exasperated sound grinds out of the Doctor’s lungs and he pulls the entry lever again, and the doors glide open. Rose starts firmly after him, hands clenched, digging finger into fist so tightly the crescent cuts of her nails are poking little holes in her flesh. Past the console doors, there’s a small foyer--if it could be called that. It’s more like an empty black cupboard, front door still hatched open, stopped up by snow. The Doctor stands outside it, a flurry of white and grey spinning round him making harsh and terrible howls, the fury of wolves and leopard seals alight in their ears, there’s snow up to his shins. He scratches his still ocean-wet head, and then twirls round (as effectively as he can, the ice is snug around him like a liquid). He squints to make Rose out, a ghost in the blue, and she realizes suddenly that she can still see his eyes, even tucked beneath his cracked lids: they’re set apart from the ice, from the storm, they are the storm. They’re a harsh water-color; cloud aqua, a kind of color you want to be covered in, you want dripping down your throat: it was alien.

Only one man had eyes like that, she realizes. His were darker; caramel-covered oak branches, whole barren forests in those eyes. But they’re the same. The same...

“Go back inside,” he yells, his voice barely registering above the glacier winds.

Rose blinks and shakes his gaze off, reverts her disposition to frost: “Tell me what’s going on,” she hollers.

“I’ve told you, I will explain!” He’s becoming agitated. “I’m sure wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I’m fine! Brave heart, Rose!”

“What did you say?” she breathes. His words at the bar...

“Get back in the TARDIS!”

“That’s not good enough!” she whips back suddenly. “If you are the Doctor--which you can’t be--but if you are, you’d be telling me what the bleedin’ hell is happening, you’d treat me like more than this, instead of waltzing me around on your naff-looking space machine to random uncomfortable places with your bloody stick of magical celery!”

The Doctor is visibly gritting his teeth, his expression hardened into something that, quite honestly, rather frightens her, and when he speaks, his voice takes on more antiquity and flame than the molten cores of most planets. “Rose, go back in the TARDIS,” he hisses.

Before she knows it, Rose has slammed the front door. She twirls the manual lock until it clicks in place, turns on her heels and marches back into the console room. It’s not long before there’s a dull, desperate pounding coming past the black of the “foyer” (she has no damned idea what else to call it).

“Rose!” comes his muffled shout from outside the TARDIS. “Rose, open the door!”

“Not listening,” she snaps loudly.

“It would be rather incisive of you to realize that I am still soaking wet”--this is a much more civilized tone now, it’s parent-anger--“and I sincerely doubt I reach my sixth incarnation on account of freezing to death on the fringes of Antarctica after being locked out of my own machine by a deluded teenage girl whose hair follicles are probably fried to the point of terminal decay by peroxide. Not even from Tegan would I expect behavior like this, and if you knew her than you must really understand what a childish and inane reaction this is, Rose, it’s unfathomable how someone-- someone like you, especially, someone I’d even remotely consider traveling with--”

The door opens. Rose is before him, the bright hair at her shoulders shaking in the wind. Her lips are puckered, eyes narrowed, her cheekbones appear set and higher than before, in a state of delicate naturalness, as if her face were permanently meant to be carrying this expression.

“What was that about my hair?” she asks.

The Doctor exhales shakily. “It’s really, really very lovely and were you to let me in, I can think of a couple nice big words I’m sure you have no idea as to the meaning of but will sound unbelievably beautiful I can use to describe it. But, please. Let me in. Please.”

Her eyes roll to the sky, bottom lip juts forward. “Kay,” she chirps. She steps aside, and he staggers past her into the console room, leaving enormous dark ice-puddles in his stride. He begins to remove his now rather spoiled sneakers as he circles the central monitor.

“Lord almighty,” he shivers. He prances over to the chair in the corner and hurriedly pulls his coat from his shoulders.

“So you’re the Doctor, then, Doctor?” she asks. “Might have managed to convince me there, think the prattling had something to do with it.”

“Jolly good,” he grates loudly. He sinks into the armchair and peels a pair of knitted, red-rimmed running socks from his feet. “I’m thrilled to high heaven it didn’t take anything like me having to beg for my life in an Arctic storm after having plummeted into freezing Pacific waters to convince you or anything.” He sniffles. “Jolly good of you, Rose...”

“Had my doubts when you went off on the hair, though,” she says. She makes a clicking sound with her tongue. “He quite fancies my hair. ‘Specially after he reg--changed. Cut it himself.” The last words are spoken to herself, they seem to stop short at her tongue rather sadly. She snorts gently and squats to her knees, hugging them, and stares up at this Doctor as he lifts his sweater-vest from his torso. He makes an unflattering grunting sound when it releases his head.

“Let’s hear some of these big wonderful words, then.”

He pauses and drums his fingers on his left knee. “Cian’ar,” he says at last, rolling the ‘r’ very softly.

“What?”

“Means ‘sun hair’ in Tous, they speak it on the Ha’anjon complex, star system 1130. Fancy way of saying ‘blonde.’ A pretty tongue, I’m led to understand, Tous, though it is a bit peculiar that the word ‘moose’ is the same as it is in English. Even more peculiar still that moose exist in the Ha’anjon complex, it’s over sixty-seven light years away and is completely inhuman in population. Yet they’ve still got moose. Quite popular fixtures at local weddings. Is there a plural for moose? Mooses? Meese? Always wondered that, if it was intended to confuse people or--” He sneezes suddenly, violently. The chair jerks back and his legs momentarily are flung upwards and he halts for a moment, breathing heavily and wide-eyed, as if he’d just avoided a major catastrophe. “Am I rattling on a bit?” His voice is hoarse. “I feel a bit feverish. Which I’m sure has got nothing to do with you...”

“Naw,” says Rose.

He chews on the skin behind his upper lip and stares hungrily at the floor, then his eyes dart to hers and he says in a very low voice, “Would you mind turning around for a moment?”

“Why?”

“Please,” he says.

Rose raises her eyebrows and pivots on her bottom to face the console. She hears the soft tinkling of metal buttons clicking against each other, of a fly unzipping. Suspenders are unsnapped (suspenders, she thinks in disbelief) and there’s a brief rustling of clothing before she hears what sounds like a door being shut and he says, “All right.”

Rose turns around quickly, and all that remains of his old outfit is the oxford shirt with those question marks (what the hell were those?), striped trousers now substituted with a rather worn pair of navy blue sweats that appear to be a size too small for him. His feet are still bare.

“Hot pants,” she mutters.

“They were Turlough’s,” he says rather affably, though to Rose it seems as if he’s attempting to convey he’s still got an ounce or two of dignity floating around somewhere. His expression drops after a second. “Not exactly the chap I trust the most to borrow trousers from, when one’s in the employ of the Black Guardian it’s a bit impossible to know where one’s been. I shudder to think of it, personally. But I’ve washed them.” He says this in the tone of somebody realizing they have not actually done something. He turns, hopefully before Rose can question him again, but she gets it out:

“Turlough?”

“Friend of mine. Went on his way recently. Well, sort of recently.”

“And you’re still lugging about a pair of his trousers through time and space because...?”

The Doctor pauses, almost in subtle contempt, and taps twice on a gently inlaid panel behind the chair, and a small closet pops open. Rose sees a dizzying red-blue-yellow print dress hanging on the side of the door, along with a sequined blue gown and, hanging inside, are several girls’ outfits, including a blood-velvet pant-suit and a white halter top with matching jacket. A skimpy bikini-looking thing is also dangling from a hanger but Rose dares not ask what that’s doing there.

“It’s a sort of lost and found cupboard,” he says, his eyes busy surveying the closet’s contents. “Things people leave once they’ve gone away, things they forget to take with them. Not everything, most of that’s in the wardrobe, but the more recent ones...just haven’t gotten round to moving it up there, really.”

“That’s nice,” Rose says softly.

He gives her a curt, rather unpleasant smile and shuts the door quickly. “Yes,” he says. He makes for the console. The Doctor pounds a few buttons and churns a rotating lever several times before the engines pound twice, then shift into whisper quiet. A final clang.

“Landed again,” says Rose. It’s more of a guess but she’s hard-pressed on sounding like she knows it all.

“Appears so,” he affirms. “Might want to nab a life jacket just in case. Or a hairdryer. Perhaps I just won’t lunge in there quite so recklessly, I shouldn’t be long...”

“I’m going with ya,” Rose says.

“I don’t think that’s wise,” replies the Doctor. “No telling what’s out there, and judging by the past few environments we’ve made berth in, I can’t afford to risk it. Can’t afford to risk you.”

“Yeah, well that’s tough,” she retorts firmly. “I’m not stayin’ here. The Doc--my Doctor’s out there, I’m gonna find him and we’re gonna fix whatever’s going on. Both of us. You’re not gonna do it alone. I can’t trust you if you treat me like a passenger, ‘cause he wouldn’t.” She swallows. “I’m more than that.”

He widens his eyes and stares at the floor, chews on the corner of his thumb. “Well,” he says at last, “judging from newly acquired experience I’d say arguing with you is a very stupid thing to do.” He smiles at her. “Why not.”

Rose grins.

The Doctor tugs at the door lever yet again, the room whirrs and the doors spread softly open. He steps aside with arm outstretched to allow Rose past him, and they push out the front door.

“My god. I do hope no one actually lives here,” says the Doctor gravely.

“It’s my room,” Rose mutters.

He blinks and wrinkles his nose. “Really?” The wonder still hasn’t left his voice. He takes a step forward, sinking his heels into the magenta carpet. The windows are open, veiled curtains fluttering in the light London air and her bed looks as if it’s lost a fight with a pack of wild dogs. “Now that is odd,” he continues. “Of all places in the universe, to end--” He sneezes violently.

“Bless you.”

“Thank you. I was going to say, odd we should end up in your room, isn’t it? Almost like she knows you.” He pats the doorframe of his blue box.

“Not surprised,” says Rose.

“Why’s that?”

She shrugs. “Been inside my head and all, it’s bound to--oh. Hasn’t happened yet, has it?”

“Yes, talking of which,” he starts, beginning to advance towards the wall behind her bed. He picks up a picture of Rose and Shereen holding wine glasses and sticking their tongues out taped messily to the left bedpost. “You said something earlier, something about Gallifrey.”

“What?”

“My home planet,” he says. He turns the picture over: HAPPY B-DAY 2000!!!!! is written on the back, hearts substituted for the zeroes. “That I could only meet with a past or future incarnation when Gallifrey was concerned, but that was an impossibility, since the planet had been destroyed...”

“Yeah.”

“Oh.”

“What about it?”

“Nothing,” he says quietly. “Just wanted to make sure I’d heard correctly.” He puts the picture back. He’s silent for a moment, still, his back turned to her, and she watches the steady movement of his shoulders as he breathes. He spins round quickly with a finger on his chin. “So if Gallifrey’s gone,” he continues, “how’s all this come about, then? Time Lords are in charge of this business, whereabouts are they now?”

Rose blinks. “You don’t know?”

He smiles. “Refresh my memory.”

“I don’t think...” She furrows her brow. “Doctor, did you know about Galiley--”

“Gallifrey.”

“--Gallifrey?” She watches him. “Hasn’t happened to you yet, has it?”

“It doesn’t matter, Rose, I need to know.”

“No. I’m not telling you that. Knowing things--big things--big things ‘bout your future, you of all people should know it’s just... not good. If future you wants to explain it, he can go right ahead, ‘least he knows what he’s doing, sort of, but I’m not--”

She stops. The Doctor's knees suddenly give way for a flicker of a second, the heel of his palm digs into an eye socket.

"All right?"

“Nothing. Yes.” He puts a hand to his forehead and shuts his eyes tightly, then drags the hand down to his jaw. “Just a momentary--oh--”

“Are you--”

“Do you mind if I lie down?”

“’Course not.”

“Thank you.” He collapses at the foot of her bed and reclines gently on top of the mauled duvet cover. “Ah, that’s a bit better...”

“What’s wrong?” Rose quickly circles the edge of her bed and gets on her knees to face him, pressing her elbows against the mattress.

“Feels like--” His back arches and his features briefly twist into an agonized state. “Oh, here it is again...”

“I’ll get some water.”

“No, Rose, please. I’m perfectly fine. It’ll pass.” He swallows heavily and tilts his head to gaze at her, her eyes centimeters from his nose. “Feels like...time distortion. Third time in one day, to boot, not terribly encouraging for the well-being of the universe.”

“Bad headaches, yeah?” asks Rose.

“Yes, to put it mildly.”

“He had them too, remember? I told you,” she says. “The Doctor. Before he left me, he--”

“Funny,” he whispers.

“Sorry?” asks Rose.

“Up close like this, your eyes...something looks so familiar about you,” says the Doctor. “I can’t put my finger on it, but...” Rose suddenly raises her hand and tucks a stray lock of his damp yellow hair behind his ear. Obviously she’s done something to embarrass him: his breathing’s turned still and he stares at her like some vaguely familiar predator, and a cold feeling creeps very slowly up her spine.

She misses him.

She pulls her hand away quickly.

“Sorry, the headaches,” she blurts. “Yeah. Before he left me, the Doctor had this horrible headache. Said it was a migraine and he was gonna have a lie-down in the TARDIS, said he was gonna park round the corner.”

“And after that?”

She shrugs. “I walked out a bit later, saw the TARDIS. Thought it was his.”

“You asked me what I had done with the TARDIS,” says the Doctor. “I’m presuming he’s changed the interior, then.”

“Well, it is different...”

“And you didn’t notice?”

She frowns at him, and he smiles lightly.

“Ah, yes. You were a bit...askew.”

“Yeah, speaking of which, I didn’t come into your TARDIS wearing pajamas.” She narrows her eyes, but a smile’s spread wide on her mouth. “Did you change me?”

His gaze snaps to hers, his brow furrowed. “What are you implying?”

“Nothing,” she says.

An agitated breath escapes him. “I did hope you were going to be mature about this, I thought I was being kind...”

“You were! It was sweet, it really was.” She runs a pink tongue over her teeth. “To be fair, it’s not like I’ve never stripped you down to jimjams either...”

“What?”

“And you still haven’t told me what’s happened to you, Doctor,” she says. His name is affected with slight skepticism. “This ‘urgent business’ you’re on about, what is it?”

“Ah,” he says. “It’s rather a long story, really, haven’t got the time to explain it all...basically, Peri, she--”

“Who’s that?”

“My friend. Peri.”

Rose frowns. The name is unfamiliar, causing him a flicker of distress and he adjusts his hips on the mattress. He swears there’s a stray coil digging into his back but he’s attempting to be polite and ignore it.

“Well, anyway, we’d boarded the TARDIS after some nasty business on Lexhyde-4, corpse-controlled robots, swarms of telepath cicadas and the like...”

“Usual nine-to-five, yeah...”

“And I’d said something to her, asked her to hang my coat up while I set the coordinates, we were in quite a hurry, you see, the cicada emperor, not a chap you want to hang about with if it’s within your best abilities. Bit of a grump. So after my rather reasonable request for him to desist shelling out the bodies of human beings and stuffing them into titanium suits in order to expand his, well, rather measly empire (let’s face it, if you’re a winged, two-centimeter Auchenorrhynchad with an army of less than five-thousand, you’re not going to get far in building a crushing fist of a civilization)...”

“Naturally,” mutters Rose.

“Well, the old boy wasn’t to keen. One of the Nektrons-- the robots he controlled, you see--shot me with a compacted pellet of sulfuric acid. Only hit the back of the jacket as I ran but it still burned something awful. Yet we made it, Peri and I. Safe in the TARDIS. She removed my coat in a hurry but she, ah, screamed and dropped it. It had singed her hands. I told her just pick it up with the hat stand and leave it hanging there, didn’t want it eating through the floor...”

“It would eat through the TARDIS floor, but not your mustard cricketing jacket?”

He bites his cheek. “Not ‘mustard,’ Rose. Wouldn’t be caught dead in mustard. You’d be surprised at the hardiness of my wardrobe, in conjunction with its dazzling, uncanny styling...”

“Okay,” breathes Rose, “so Penny--”

“Peri.”

“Peri is going to get the hat stand.”

“Yes. Drops the coat, I flick a switch or two, turn round, she’s gone. Along with the stand. Vanished.”

“How is that possible though? Unless there was a light or something from a transmat, doesn’t seem right. Not in the TARDIS, anyway.”

“You’d be surprised,” he says. A grimace pinches his features and he quickly juts a hand to his lower back. “What have you got in this mattress, birds’ nests? It’s like--”

Rose abruptly digs her with her hand alarmingly close to his backside, yanks something painfully out from under him. It’s a stuffed bear with one eye missing.

“Did I do that?”

“What?”

“His eye.”

“No,” she says curtly. She fluffs up the teddy’s belly and sticks him at the bottom of the headboard. It makes a squeaking sound when it hits the mattress which briefly startles the Doctor. He clears his throat.

“Now. What’s your story then, Rose?”

“I told you already,” she says. “Doctor and I, pub, 1982--”

“No,” he says. His tone turns rather chummy. “Who are you, tell me about your life.”

“Ah,” she says. She grins and tugs at the ends of her hair. “Again, things you should not know...”

“I’m the lord of time, here, I’ll ask what I like,” he snaps.

“Isn’t that dangerous? How can you have met me in your past but not recognize me in the future?”

“Circumstance will likely provide the answer, eventually. Shouldn’t let it worry us. This is your flat, is it?” he asks, his eyes rolling to the ceiling and surveying its cracked lavender paintwork.

“Sort of. Actually share it with my--”

The front door bursts open, and the explosion of blonde and tracksuit that is Jackie Tyler is announced to Rose’s bedroom.

“Mum,” mutters Rose.

“Rose Marion Tyler, where the bloody hell have you been?! I ‘s worried sick about you!”

“Mum, what you talking about, I was--”

“Who’s that there on the bed? Here, is that Tommy Robbs!?”

“What? Mum, I haven’t seen Tommy Robbs since I was eight years old--”

“Well he looks an awful lot like Tommy Robbs. Who the hell are you? What are you doing with my daughter?”

The Doctor pops up and tightly pulls himself against the headboard, his expression slightly beyond the realms of deepest terror. “Ah. Yes?”

“It’s the Doctor, mum,” says Rose calmly.

Jackie frowns. “What d’you mean, ‘the Doctor’?”

“We’re trying to sort out what it’s all about, but remember the Doctor, when he changed? When he got his new face? It’s like that only backwards, sorta, he’s an older Doctor. Well, younger. It--he’s different from...” She stops for breath. “Jesus.”

The Doctor clears his throat. “Missus...”

“Tyler,” repeats Rose quickly.

“Tyler. Yes, hello, I’m the Doctor, I assume you’re privy to my identity already.”

“What Doctor?”

The Doctor,” says Rose. “Mum, it’s the Doctor. The one I’ve been traveling with all this time, the man with two hearts, the one whose nose you’ve almost broken twice?”

“She what?” breathes the Doctor.

“You and him? Under my roof!?”

“Mum, we’re not--!” Rose cuts herself off, exasperated. “It’s the Doctor, what’s the matter with you!?”

“He ain’t one of your Doctors, I can tell,” she says. “It’s only lady doctors for you from now on, after that wretched business with your math tutor in secondary school...”

Mum!”

“Perhaps I’d better be off,” says the Doctor feebly.

“What? Where the hell are you gonna go?”

“Well, I’m quite capable of solving all this on my own, no need to put you in danger. Have you killed or grounded or anything.” He begins to shift off the edge of the bed, when Rose seizes a padded shoulder and tugs him violently back towards her.

“No,” she hisses. “I’m gonna say this once and only once: you’re not doing this alone. We gotta find the Doctor, figure out what the hell’s going on around here and why my mum hasn’t got a bloody clue as to who you are.”

He wheezes. “Kay.”

“Cheers,” she grumbles, and releases her grip.

“Mrs. Tyler,” says the Doctor hoarsely, standing up and edging towards her as if she were a baby holding a loaded rifle. “Mind if I just...examine your eyes for a moment?”

Jackie narrows her eyes. “What you playin’ at?”

“I am a real doctor,” he says.

“And I’m Judy Garland,” she snaps. “Get the hell out of my house before I call the police.”

“Mum,” grunts Rose.

“No, honestly,” insists the Doctor, “your pupils look a bit dilated. I’d like to take a look.”

“How d’you mean?” asks Jackie.

“Please, just a quick check-up.” He gently places both his thumbs on each of her cheeks, leans in slowly. His soft eyes rapidly scan up and down her face, and he shifts her jaw slightly from left to right. From a distance, Rose can swear his eyes have darkened to a shade of slate blue: a sea before it erupts. “Right,” mutters the Doctor after a moment.

He takes both hands off her face, shuts his eyes and goes utterly still. Then in a quick flash of movement, his lids fly open and he snaps his fingers. Jackie’s eyelids clamp shut and she shakes her head, as if an uncomfortable sound were caught in her ear, and Rose begins to shout in protest and clamber off the bed. The Doctor holds up a hand, motioning for her to be still, and she warily obeys it.

Jackie sticks a pinky finger in her ear, then tilts her head sideways and begins to hop up and down.

“What the hell’s she doing?” asks Rose.

“It’s all right,” says the Doctor.

Several drops of water dribble out of Jackie’s ear and onto Rose’s carpet. She shakes her head violently a few more times before coming to a halt and staring at him.

“What did you do?” she asks.

“Let’s try this again,” he says. “I’m the Doctor. It’s very good to see you again, Mrs. Tyler.”

“For heaven’s sake, did you go off dying again? What’s happened this time?” She puckers her lips into a sneer and stares up and down him. “Dress sense certainly ain’t improved much, I can tell you.”

The Doctor turns his head and beams at Rose, whose returned expression can’t be labeled as anything other than gob smacked. “What was that?” she breathes.

“I’ll explain later,” says the Doctor.

“Anyway, darlin’,” says Jackie, grinning at her daughter. “Make us all a cuppa tea then, shall I? You look a bit worse for wear, Doctor.”

“Yes,” he mutters to himself. “Your dear daughter is a bit responsible for that, but she needn’t worry, I bear no grudge.”

“He’s even weirder than before,” Jackie directs to Rose in a low, sad voice.

“I’ll pretend not to have heard that,” the Doctor says. “That tea does sound lovely, Mrs. Tyler.”

“Jackie,” she corrects him fiercely. “’How many times...help put the kettle on, would you Rose?”

“No, no,” says the Doctor happily. “Don’t trouble yourself. I’ll do it.” He darts out the bedroom, turns left, Rose shouts, “Other way,” and there’s the sound of his heels practically catching fire on the carpet as he makes an abrupt about-face and marches into the kitchen.

Jackie and daughter stare at each other in silence as there’s a quiet rustling followed by a clamorous parade of colliding kitchenware: pots, pans, the sound of something shattering. “Sugar, Rose?” calls the Doctor. His voice has gone up about three octaves; he’s most likely just broken something very expensive.

“Yeah, ta,” replies Rose loudly, scratching her chin.

Jackie nods towards the kitchen. “I told you, didn’t I? You’re not safe with him. Been dead twice in two years; how many lives has he got, anyway?”

“He’s from his past, mum,” says Rose. “The Doctor’s past. And the Doctor--the real Doctor, Proper Doctor--he’s out there somewhere, ‘least...well. He’d better be.”

“Well, that’s not right, is it?” asks Jackie, wrinkling her nose. “Shouldn’t be running around with him, not when he’s like that, wouldn’t that break some law about the future?”

“I don’t know,” says Rose quietly. She sighs and pulls on a clump of her hair. “Not sure I like this one, either. He’s a bit head boy.”

“You could do with a bit of that.”

“Don’t start,” says Rose.

“You just take care,” replies Jackie sternly. “I mean it, Rose. If--”

The Doctor’s appeared at the doorway again, his fingers closed tight around the doorframe. By the look on his face, one would guess he’d stumbled in on a transvestite bathing an elephant.

“Er—sorry, have I...?”

“No,” mumbles Rose, rising to her feet. She tugs at her ear. “We were just...no.”

“I just wanted to let you know the tea’s ready. Rose, yours is in the blue mug your grandfather brought back for you from Massachusetts: two milks, one sugar, how you like it.”

“How did you...?”

“I’m going to get changed,” he announces. “My trousers ought to be dry by now, I’m growing a bit weary of fitting the waistline of a seventeen-year-old Trion – besides, navy makes me look like a prat.”

“Doctor.”

He’s already in front of the TARDIS, key in place, a hand tugging at the trousers sitting on his slender hips, but halts all movement to face her. “Yes?”

It takes a moment, but he realizes--her face could haunt the centuries, were it allowed to explore them – there was no other purpose to her, it seemed. Other than to watch. Her gold hair is as fixed a point in creation as the stars: as revolutions were had and withered, battles were fought and lost, things were born and life smothered out with the last feathers of heat spat from the dead, cracking sun, she would see it all. She was meant to. She haunts everything, her face and name (but not her own, some other name), it is everywhere. But she’s a stranger to him. He sees these planes of orbit, nebulas, constellations, they’re stenciled in the lines on her face; she’s map of all creation. Worlds would revolve around the color of her hair, her skin the slope of footsteps and battle grounds. In fact, by all accounts, there is every indication that she is stretched from the first hisses of hydrogen to the last burning ember, the last speck of light in all of time, just as he is. And yet it’s impossible. He does not sense these things in anyone else, not even in those he would call family, those who are born writhing in the very puddles of infinity, but it’s there in her, she stretches and bends and breathes and her heart beats and he can sense everything all the time, always, at the other side of the room, with the earth turning under his bare feet. There’s the world, it churns and swells and will end someday. And there’s her.

“Never mind,” says Rose at last.

The Doctor suddenly looks slightly shaken, and he glances to Jackie and says, “I didn’t pour your tea, Mrs. Ty--Jackie, not sure how you liked it. Might want to see to that before it gets cold.”

Jackie clicks her tongue, pats her hips as she power-walks out of the room, not shutting the door behind her.

The Doctor glances back to Rose, who’s looking at the floor, and he extends his hand gently, fingers widespread.

“Rose,” he says.

She bites her lip, glances at her bedroom door. “But mum--”

Then there's a voice. Estuary, familiar. Calming, curling in her head: Trust him.

Rose’s eyes snap back to meet his, and there’s a small smile on the Doctor's lips; it’s like all the breath has been sucked from her at once.

“Take my hand,” he says. Her palm's warm when it reaches his, fingers soft. He grins. “We've got a planet to save.”




----

Coming up: Peri Brown, trapped in void-space with naught but a hat stand, meets a maniac in a striped suit. The TARDIS goes back to Spain, there’s something odd in the water, and Rose adjusts to holding a different hand.

Until next time!

Reviews are ace. ♥
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
midasu: Red Shoesmidasu on May 21st, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)
I love you back.